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Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. (1877 - 1950s)

The club was founded in 1877 but it's possible that golf could have been played on the links prior to this date. 

Below is a report on the annual meeting held in September 1880.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Report on the annual meeting in September 1880.

From the Ayr Advertiser, or, West Country Journal Thursday 30 September 1880. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The monthly handicap gold medal for February 1881 was won by Rev. Mr Williamson. 

The monthly medal was played on Saturday 2 July 1881. At the close of the competition Mr McGibbon of Laggan and the Rev. Williamson were found to be equal, having both accomplished the round of 16-holes in 79 strokes. Mr McGibbon won the play off.

The following is taken from the 1888/89 Golfing Annual; "Instituted 1877; Entrance Fee, None; Annual Subscription, Three Shillings and Sixpence; Life Membership £1; Number of Members 49; Captain – John B Hunter; Committee – Rev J F Williamson, Messrs. Douglas, Temple and Stuart; Secretary – Robert Temple, Schoolhouse, Ballantrae. Club Prizes – Murdoch Gold Medal and another two scratch prizes, Laggan Cup, Biscuit Box, Silver Cup. Also, the Hunter Monthly Medal, the Challenge Medal, the joint gift of Lord Archibald Campbell and Andrew Lang. Prize Winners in 1888 – Murdoch Medal, D Stuart; Biscuit Box, John McCulloch; Silver Cup, D Stuart; Laggan Cup, Rev J F Williamson; Challenge Medal, Rev J F Williamson. Course Information – The lowest score made in a club competition is 94 – made by more than one player in the Annual Competition in August, this has since been beaten in a private match between members.

The links are situated between the highway and the sea, and are easy of access. The sea-beach constitutes a good hazard, affording ample breadth to prevent balls going into the sea, and consisting of soft sand ready for the reception of balls from such luckless players as may drive widely from the course. There are nine holes, four going out and five returning, and there is no hole without its hazard. Some have several hazards consisting either of sand bunkers, stone walls, ditches, cross roads through sand, burn etc. Since the extension of the links last year, the game requires skilful playing, especially the first hole returning (Tickler). The length of the course is 1,300 yards, exposed throughout to exhilarating and bracing breezes from the North Channel and the Atlantic. The turf is good, and the scenery magnificent; the views of Arran, Ailsa, Cantyre, Wigtonshire, and, in clear weather, Ireland, are highly picturesque."

At a meeting in the Public Hall in July 1890 the secretary announced the results of the following competitions. The Laggan Challenge Cup, which had 22 entrants was won by Mr Williamson 100-5-95. The Murdoch Gold Medal for scratch players was won by Mr John Murdoch with an unprecedented score of 87 Mr Cunningham of Kilmarnock was runner-up. The Hunter Casket was won by was won by Mr Stewart, 91the Hunter Cup by Mr Cunningham. Other prize winners were; Mr Gladstone, Mr Williamson, Mr Smart and Mr Lewis Temple.

Competition results from 1890. Laggan Challenge Cup; Mr Williamson, 100 - 6 - 94; Murdoch Gold Medal (scratch players), Mr John Phillips, 87, Mr Cunningham of Kilmarnock was runner up; The Hunter Casket, Mr Stewart, 91; Hunter Cup, Mr Cunningham; Other prize winners, Mr Gladstone, Mr Smart and Mr Lewis Temple.

The course underwent many changes in its early years. It was originally designed by William Fernie.

In 1891 further changes were made by Thomas Ramsay of Troon, supervised by Fernie and assisted by green-keeper Donald Henderson, himself a fine golfer. William Fernie held the professional course record of 71 for many years. Fernie commented on the completion of the course “I found the work entirely to my satisfaction. I particularly look over the teeing grounds and putting greens which are first class. When the grass gets time to grow you will have splendid greens”

Following is an extract from a report, and below is a plan of the course, from the Evening Times 20 June 1891. “Ballantrae is reckoned one of the most bracing sea coast towns in the west of Scotland. It is situated nine-miles from Pinwhirrie, the nearest railway station, and on this account it is perhaps not as popular as it ought to be. Like Prestwick and Troon it has long had a fine golfing ground, but until a few years ago playing was confined to the squire, the farmer, the local policeman, and a few others. With the spread of interest in the ancient game, however, Ballantrae links have come to the front. In June, July, August and September last year the links were exceptionally busy, and many artists were deprived of their comfortable quarters in the hotel through the influx of golfers. Not long ago Andrew Lang spent some pleasant time between his literary work at the hotel and the golf on the links; and it is said that Robert Louis Stevenson fell on the title of “The Master of Ballantrae,” for one of his most exciting stories, through a communication from Mr Lang during the latter’s residence at Mr Walker’s Inn. This year the links have been extended and greatlt improved under the superintendence of Willie Firnie, the Troon professional. There is a nice little golf house, and the links are about a five minute walk from the village.The beach consists of loose sand and gravel, and forms an excellent hazard on the return journey. The highway skirts the links on the outward journay, and is a bad enough hazard when the wind is from the sea.

The first hole is 243 yards in length; The player has to cross a road of deep, heavy sand, and also has to avoid a large sand bunker close to the putting green.The second hole (The Cup) is a round hollow, and measures 347 yards. Two ditces and a 4ft. wall have to be crossed, as well as part of a large bunker.The third hole (Burn) measures 246 yards. The second shot usually has to be played over broken ground and a burn. The Alps hole measures 271 yards. The first drive should go over Alps, a high ridge across the links. The putting green is flanked by a small sand bunker, and has an eminence in front. The next hole, Knockdolian, is situated on a high table of land. A drive of 140 yards shoul land the ball near the hole. The table land is about 40 yards by 15. Balls missing this esplanade have to be played up a steep slope, and if over driven have to be played back again. The sixth hole (Ditch Hole) lies across a ditch, and measures 263 yards from the tee. The seventh hole (Redburn) has no serious hazard, and measures 274 yards. The eighth hole (Majuba Hill) measures 162 yards and might be reached with a good drive and high ball, as the putting green is at the top of a scaur (steep cliff or bank) and is, consequently, rather elevated. Few, however, can lay a ball on the green with the tee shot. The public road has to be crossed at Redburn before teeing again. A rapid stream sweeps past the bottob of the scaur, and has to be taken into account. The course beyond Majuba is intersected by Colmonell Road, which has to be crossed before driving off, halfway hole is then within 190 yards. A deep hollow between steep banks is the only hazard to be feared; but an ordinary drive easily clears this hollow. The tenth hole (Corseclays) is also in this field length 200 yards. The eleventh (Crossroad) passes out of the field. A high wall within 15 yards hasto be crossed by a drive, otherwise the player may come to grief. If the wall is cleared an ordinary player may hole out in three. This is the shortest hole on the course being only 116 yards, but it is also, perhaps, the most difficult to negotiate. The twelfh hole (Neck or Nothing) must be reached by playing overa scaur, past a boiler-house and into a long hollow – length 161 yards. The thirteenth hole (Bent) requires straight driving, to avoid high rough ground on the right side – length 232 yards. Fourteenth (Marchburn) hole, between Knockdolian and the beach, is not very difficult as a rule and measures 272 yards. The fifteenth hole (Balig) is the longest on the course, being 355 yards, the beach has to be guarded against when playing this hole. The sixteenth is the saucer hole, by keeping clear of the beach golfers should be near the hole in two, length 246 yards. The seventeenth (The Dyke Hole) measures 236 yards, there is a dyke to clear with the drive, a few get over, but more fall short, and, worse still, some are caught at the bottom of the dyke, and find themselves in difficulties. The eighteenth (Home Hole,) 347 yards from the tee, is hazardous in various ways. The drive is over a large sand bunker, where the course is narrow. A deep cross road of pure sand and deep ruts next besets the golfer, and lastly another cross road near the green has to be avoided. The turf here and all along the course is unsurpassed, and the links from end to end are swept by a bracing and pure atmosphere, fresh from the Atlantic. The captain of the club is the genial Dr Dougan, of Springburn, Glasgow.”


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. The layout of the Willie Fernie golf course in June 1891.


Competition results from July 1891.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Competition results from July 1891.



I have located a further interesting but intimidating description of some holes from 1892. Unfortunately the holes do not have names on the scorecard, therefore untraceable at this time: “The best greens are “Knockdolian” a plateau 15 feet high, forty yards long and fifteen yards in diameter, “Majuba Hill” circled by precipitous sides, “Half Way” defended by two ravines, with a good lie between, “Neck or Nothing”, or “Hally’s Circus”, intersected by the windings of the Red Burn which a player may do in 3, a novice 30, The “Saucer” and “Purgatory” out of which there is no redemption”. A press report at the time stated “The links are of the most varied and and sporting description mainly composed of the famed Ayrshire turf, comparatively free from traps but abounding in hazards – sand bunkers, burns, ravines and dykes guarding the holes. The approaches are well attended to and an accurate game may be depended upon” the description was supposed to encourage visitors, it must have frightened many away.

On Tuesday 13 July 1897 Charles P Thomson won the annual competition for the Hunter Medal with a score of 91 scratch.

On Friday 22 July 1898 the annual competition for the Gladstone Gold Medal took place. There were 22 entrants, the winner was William Stevenson, Glasgow with a score of 91-5-86.

In August 1898 the ladies competition for the silver topped toilet bottle, presented by Mr Joseph Charlesworth was played. It was won by Miss Hamilton of Glasgow.

The competition for the Murdoch Gold Medal “Champion” was concluded on Friday 10th August 1900, Mr James Phillips, Ballantrae, was declared Champion for the year.

On Thursday 23 August 1900 Mr J Morris Henderson won the Laggan Cup with a score of 91-4-87. The annual competition for the The McConnel Cup was played the day after and was won by Mr Thomas Adams of Edinburgh. 

A mixed foursome competition with prizes given by Mr & Mrs R J Lockhart, Manchester and Mr H C Smith, Newcatle, was completed on Saturday 25 August 1900, the winners were; Miss Bunce, Mrs Donnan, William Sturrock and John McCulloch.

Below images show the former Ballantrae golf clubhouse in two locations.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. The clubhouse on the golf course.

Above postcard shows the Ballantrae clubhouse on the golf course.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. The clubhouse on the Bowling Green.

The former Ballantrae clubhouse was later being used by the Colmonell Bowling Club.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Course layout in the 1920s.

Course layout in the 1920s.







Robert Temple, Schoolhouse, Ballantrae

John Baird (p)



Henry Baxter (p)



J McNeillie (p)



G Thomson (p)


J R G Phillips




James McNeillie (g)



A Cunningham (g)

In 1914 there was a membership of 150 and the new clubhouse had recently been built. There was no entry fee. Subs for gents were 10/- and Ladies 5/-. Visitors’ fees for gents were 1/- a day, 4/- a week, 7/- a fortnight, 10/- a month. Ladies paid 1/-, 2/6d, 3/6 & 5/- respectively. Sunday play was not allowed.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Postcard showing the clubhouse and Knockdollan.

Golf Clubhouse and Knockdollan, Ballantrae. Image Courtesy of Frank Accleton.


In 1922 membership was 200. Visitors’ fees were 2/- a day, 5/6d a week, 12/- a month.

Winner of the annual gold medal and club championship played in August 1925 was J Victor Cunningham with a score of 154.  

From 1936 to 47 the course records were: (a) 70 and (p) 71. Visitors’ fees were now 2/- a day, 7/6d a week, 20/- a month.

Competition for the Stock Cups, mixed foursome over 15 holes, was played in June 1938, result as follows; Miss Lyon and Andrew Cunningham (14), 65; Miss Logan and W Nelson (12), 67; Miss McBride and John Agnew (scratch), 69.

Mixed foursome played over 15 holes in July 1938; Miss Hibbs & Forbes Wynne (8) and Miss Beale & Victor Cunningham (12), 62; Miss M Gow & W Ba(e)ndon jnr ( 16), 64.

Murdoch Gold Medal and Championship played in July 1938; F A Wyse 80+72=152; W Munro, 75+85=160; Laggan Cup, W Munro (6), 69.

Result of a mixed foursome (15 holes) played in August 1938 for prizes presented by Mr & Mrs J M Robertson; Miss E C Mackenzie and A M Fairlie (9), 65; Mrs Grant & A Mackenzie (6), 68; Mrs Robertson & A H Vincent (9), 69.

In August 1938 Miss Lyon, Ballantrae won the ladies' Club Championship with a scratch score of 92. Also in August the McConnell Cup was won by C Agnew (16), 70; the runner-up was A Cunningham (17), 72.

Result of a mixed foursome (15holes) played in September for prizes given by Mr & Mrs Robert Aitken; J Templeton & John Agnew (5), 64; Miss McBride & B Cowper (5) and Miss Bessie McKissock & Ian Mitchell (13), 70.  

Early card of the course -

Hole Yards Hole Yards
1 400 10 315
2 150 11 290
3 150 12 130
4 255 13 225
5 260 14 330
6 285 15 315
7 290 16 270
8 355 17 365
9 280 18 425

The club secretary from 1914 to 1947 was J R G Phillips of Ballantrae. There was a railway station at Pinwherry which was 8 miles away in the early years but by the mid 1930s the nearest station was at Girvan which was 18 miles away. Local hotels were the Kings Arms, Royal and the Ardstinchar. Sunday play was never allowed.

Thanks to Dr. Douglas Lockhart who took the pictures of the old course on 29 October 2019.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Pictures taken of the old course by Dr. Douglas Lockhart 29 October 2019.


Ballantrae Golf Club, Ayrshire. Pictures taken of the old course by Dr. Douglas Lockhart 29 October 2019.

Looking towards Ballantrae (south).


The club prospered until the outbreak of WW2. Following the war, with the proximity of the main road, which intersected the links, and the growing volume of traffic it became impractical to play golf on the old course. There was an attempt by local enthusiasts to resurrect the club and build a nine hole course on land known as the “Windmill” opposite the Kings Arms Hotel. The committee approached Mr Hinds, Craigie Mains for the use of two fields, they also approached Mr George Clark who had two fields bordering Craigie Mains, unfortunately an agreement could not be reached with Mr Hinds. The club at this stage were determined to carry on with the layout of a course on the “Windmill”. Mr John McNally was appointed green-keeper with Mr Thomas McCreadie his assistant. A great deal of effort was put in by the greens committee which included Mr McCulloch of Laggan, Mr Tait, Carnethy and Mr Phillips, Rathlyn to re-establish the club on the “Windmill” but with dwindling membership following WW2 it became impossible to carry on. In April 1951 it was announced by Hew Dalrymple, the chairman and club captain, that because of lack of funds it would be imprudent to carry on and arrangements were made to dispose of the clubs assets. At the final meeting in October 1951 an offer of £210 was accepted for the clubhouse from Colmonell Bowling Club. The clubs trophies are stored in bank vaults in Girvan.

From the Sunday Post Sunday 15 June 1947 - "The first nine holes of Ballantrae's new golf course have been completed and will be open for play at the end of the month." 

In 1951 the new course on the Windmill was still being recorded, the secretary was W C Dallas, Commercial Bank, Ballantrae and the green-keeper J McNally. The nine-hole course had a SSS of 68. The amateur course record was held by R H Stevenson with a score of 71. Visitors’ fees were 10/- a week, 15/- a fortnight, 20/- a month.


Location of Ballantrae Golf Club course.

Location of Ballantrae golf course.

Grid reference NX09000 84665, co-ordinates 209000 584665.